Category Archives: Uncategorized

FBI Coming to ThrillerFest



Are you going to ThrillerFest next July? If so, join us for a Pre-Conference Workshop. Space is very limited so sign up now.

Today’s FBI: Crime Essentials For Writers

WHEN: Tuesday, July 5, 2016 (Full-day workshop, exact time to be determined soon)

WHERE: FBI Headquarters, 290 Broadway, New York, New York

WHAT: Hear from FBI experts in Cybercrime, International Terrorism, Criminal Investigations, and More

COST: $100/per person, which includes lunch, drinks, and snacks

Last year’s event was a huge success, so we are offering the workshop again this year. Space is limited.

If you have already registered for ThrillerFest, please email Registrar Dennis Kennett at so that he can add the workshop to your registration. The credit card you used for registration will be used for payment.

In your email, if you are a U.S. citizen, you will need to provide the first, middle, and last name shown on your birth certificate; birth city, birth state, and birth country; birth date; and Social Security number.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, the information needed is the first, middle, and last name shown on your birth certificate; country of citizenship; birth date; and your passport number.

Please, no middle initials – full middle names only. This information is used by the FBI to vet your entrance into the building to attend the workshop. If you prefer to provide this information via telephone, you can call Dennis at 636-938-7163.

John Jack Doe
Anytown, TX USA

If you are not registered, please go to You will find the workshop as one of the choices available on the Agenda page.You will need to provide the same information as above. You can register for this pre-conference workshop as a standalone event without registering for the rest of the ThrillerFest conference. But Master CraftFest, CraftFest, PitchFest, ThrillerFest and the Awards Banquet are right there at your fingertips – why miss out on the year’s premiere events in the thriller genre?

Whether you are checking facts, or writing and researching your next novel, if you need a better understanding of the FBI, this seminar is for you!

Warmest regards,

Kimberley Howe, Executive Director, ThrillerFest

DP Lyle, ITW VP for Education; CraftFest/Master CraftFest Director

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 28, 2015 in Uncategorized


Crime and Science Radio: Identifying The Dead, Finding The Missing: An Interview With Todd Matthews of NamUs

BIO: Todd Matthews is the Director of Case Management and Communications for NamUs. He  joined the NamUs management team in 2011 as the program transitioned to the UNT Health Science Center. In his current role, he manages the NamUs Regional System Administrator staff, oversees quality assurance and quality control of NamUs data, performs outreach and training, coordinates all NamUs print and broadcast media, and serves as the media spokesperson for NamUs.

Todd Matthews previously served as a NamUs Regional System Administrator and was a member of the NamUs Advisory Board for the development of the NamUs database and program. In those roles, he piloted efforts to coordinate data exchanges between NamUs and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

He has also served as the Media Director for two important volunteer programs related to missing and unidentified persons: The Doe Network and Project EDAN. He has worked as a blogger for Discovery ID and served as a consultant for Jerry Brukheimer on “The Forgotten” and Dick Wolf on “Lost & Found”, two scripted series related to missing and unidentified persons.



NamUs: National Missing and Unidentified Persons System

University of North Texas Health Science Center’s Center for Human Identification/Forensic Science Unit

Todd Matthews on UNT site:

Project EDAN

“Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains: The Nation’s Silent Mass Disaster,” NIJ report by Nancy Ritter.

“Identifying Missing Persons and Unidentified Decedents” NIJ Website Law Enforcement topics

The Doe Network:

Black and Missing Foundatation

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

PBS Frontline‘s “Post Mortem” series map of death investigation in the U.S.

“Uniform Protocol to Address Unidentified Human Remains and Missing Persons,” Marzena H. Mulawka, Ismail M. Sebetan, and Paul C. Stein, in The Journal of Forensic Identification, available through NCJRS

“Resolving Missing and Unidentified Person Cases Using Today’s Technologies,” Dustin Driscoll, National Missing and Unidentified Persons (NamUs) Analyst, in The Police Chief Magazine, May 2013


Interview with Laurent Guillaume, French Police Officer and Author of White Leopard




Cops and Writers

Laurent Guillaume is a multiple-award-winning French writer and former police officer. In law enforcement, he worked anti-gang, narcotics, financial crimes, and served in Mali as advisor to the local police. His first novel to be translated into English is a hard-boiled PI story set in West Africa: White Leopard, published by Le French Book.

Does being a cop help to write a mystery novel?

It is both an asset and toxic. My novels necessarily borrow from reality, so being a cop is an advantage. But I also think it is a trap. In a mystery, the writer’s main preoccupation has to be the plot.

In your novels, politicians are never very clean.

I think the quest for power has a negative impact on everyone who goes after it. Politics has the power to corrupt on many levels because it lives off of everything that is toxic in our society: money, dissimulation and lies. One has to overcome so many obstacles to attain power that it becomes a kind of Grail, and overcomes its original raison d’être: public good. But there are politicians who are driven by a real sense of democracy, by honest political conviction and humanism. I like to believe that even the worst people can at certain times and under certain circumstances prove to have some purity. The opposite is true as well. It is just a matter of proportion.

You seem to leave the reader to judge. Is this done on purpose?

I don’t like the idea of telling a reader how to think or what to like or not like about my novels. I don’t judge, I tell a story. Moral judgments are for philosophers. All of my characters are made of shadow and light, like in life. You are free to love them or hate them for what they are. But I don’t want them to leave you indifferent. Indifference is the harshest criticism.

Tell us a little something about the genre you chose for this book.

White Leopard is what I would call a “hard-boiled African” thriller. I went back to the codes of the 1930s-1940s hard-boiled detective novel (tough, alcoholic PI; the femme fatale who brings him a complicated, perilous case; etc.) and then I transposed them to contemporary Africa. And it worked.

What inspired you to write this book? Is it based on real events or your own experience?

When I worked at the French Embassy in Mali, I was in charge of police cooperation, particularly with regards to drug trafficking and organized crime. At the time, I worked on a case called “Air Cocaine” as a consultant for the Malian authorities. It didn’t take long to find some material for a good mystery in there. For that matter, a better part of the novel is based on real events.


Here’s some info about the book:


By Laurent Guillaume

Hard-boiled African Noir. Everything is possible and nothing is certain. A man torn between two continents finds himself in a dangerous confrontation between tradition and corruption. Solo is a former cop who ran away from a dark past in France to start his life over again in Bamako, Mali, as a PI. An ordinary case turns out to be not so ordinary. The drug mule gets her throat slit. The French lawyer is too beautiful and too well-informed. The cocaine is too plentiful.

WHITE LEOPARD (Le French Book, November 2015; $16.95) was first published in French. The story was inspired by a real case that occurred while the author was stationed in Mali as advisor to the local police.


For more information about White Leopard visit:

Release date: November 19, 2015

Trade paperback $16.95; 240 pages ISBN: 978-1-9394-7450-6 e-book: 978-1-9394-7451-3 – hardback (library edition): 978-1-9394-7452-0

Click to access cover art:

Click to access author portrait:

1 Comment

Posted by on November 17, 2015 in Uncategorized


Don’t You Hate It When Someone Tosses A Monkey Wrench Into Your Affair?

OK, let me see if I have this straight. In a love triangle gone bad, the Meerkat expert attacked the llama wrangler’s ex-girlfriend, the monkey keeper in this little domestic episode, with a wine glass at the zoo’s annual Christmas party. Don’t you just love the holiday season?

Wait a minute–wasn’t this one of Aesop’s Fables? Maybe not.

Try as you may, you just can’t make this stuff up.

Caroline Westlake--the meerkat-keeper

Caroline Westlake–the meerkat-keeper

Kate Sanders--the monkey-handler

Kate Sanders–the monkey-handler

Adam Davies--the llama-wrangler

Adam Davies–the llama-wrangler

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 12, 2015 in Uncategorized


Crime and Science Radio Returns With An Interview of Jan Burke by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Crime and Science Radio returns Saturday 9-12-15 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time with an interview of Jan Burke by Hank Phillippi Ryan


Crime and Science Radio: Turning the Tables; Emmy-Winning Investigative Reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan interrogates Jan Burke

We recently interviewed stellar investigative reporter and Agatha-winning author Hank Phillippi Ryan, and she suggested turning the tables on your hosts, Jan Burke and D.P. Lyle, MD.  How could we say no?

Today join Multiple (33) Emmy Award-winning and Edgar R. Morrow Award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan as she turns the tables on Crime and Science Radio’s co-host Jan Burke

BIO: Jan Burke was born in Texas but has spent most of her life in California. She is the author of fourteen books and over thirty short stories, and served as the associate editor of Mystery Writers of America’s Writing Mysteries.  Throughout her career of over 20 years, she has been published by and is grateful for the support of Simon & Schuster.

She won the Edgar for Best Novel for Bones, the Agatha for Best Short Story for “The Man in the Civil Suit,” and has received numerous other awards and nominations. She has taught writing for the UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program, the Book Passage Mystery Writing Conference, and in other venues. She has served as the Guest of Honor for Left Coast Crime, Malice Domestic, and other fan conventions. Her books and stories have been published internationally and have been optioned for film.

In 2003, her concern for the problems caused by the severe underfunding of U.S. crime labs led her to found the Crime Lab Project, which, through the efforts of writers, forensic scientists, television producers, and concerned members of the public, has worked to increase awareness of the need to strengthen forensic science in the U.S.. She has been honored by the California Forensic Science Institute, which included her in its Hall of Fame, and continues to serve on the CFSI advisory board.

She is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime, and is also a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of AmericaMWA, the Authors Guild, and other organizations.



Jan Burke’s Website

Hank Phillippi Ryan’s Website

Jan Burke on Facebook

Jan Burke on Twitter @Jan_Burke or

Jan’s Blog:

The Crime Lab Project

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 10, 2015 in Uncategorized


Crystal Pattern Mapping: A New Technique For Restoring Obliterated Serial Numbers


Serial numbers on firearms offer investigators a reliable method for tracing ownership. To avoid this connection, criminals will often attempt to obliterate these by scratching, gouging, and grinding the numbers away. Or at least damaging them so that they become unreadable.


There are many techniques for restoring such numbers. Things like acid or electrical etching, magnaflux, ultrasonic cavitation. But these techniques don’t often work and some can damage the evidence. (See Below)

Now those clever folks at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a new method: Crystal Pattern Mapping. This technique employs a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and reads the electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD), which reveals the obliterated numbers.


An intriguing and useful new tool for the forensic scientist.

Howdunit 400X533



Sometimes it’s obvious that a particular gun was the murder weapon. It is found at the crime scene, along the perpetrator’s escape route, or where it was discarded, and the forensic fi rearms examiner matches the gun to the bullets removed from the victim. But that information doesn’t identify the gun’s owner or who fi red it. In this situation it is useful to discover if anyone had registered the gun. Even if the registered owner is not the killer, he might have given the gun to someone, or it might have been stolen and the murder and the gun theft can be linked. Comparing the evidence in the two cases would move the investigators closer to identifying the perpetrator.

But criminals are clever. They often attempt to grind or file away the gun’s serial number in the hopes that the weapon can’t be traced. If so, the examiner has a few tricks he can employ in these situations.

The most common are magnaflux, chemical and electrochemical etching, and ultrasonic cavitation. Each relies on the changes in the structure of the gun’s metal that follows the serial number stamping process. When the metal is pressure-stamped, not only is the metal indented with the numbers, but also the metal beneath the numbers is stressed and undergoes structural changes.

MAGNAFLUX: This is only useful if the weapon is composed of iron-containing metals. The gun is placed in a strong electromagnetic fi eld or beneath a strong magnet, which magnetizes the weapon. The lines of magnetic force in a magnetized object usually run parallel to each other, but the disordered metal beneath the stamped numbers disrupt this order. The gun is then sprayed with a special oil in which iron-like particles are suspended. The particles tend to collect in the areas of disordered metal, thus revealing the hidden number. The major advantage of this process is it is nondestructive and doesn’t alter the weapon.

CHEMICAL AND ELECTROCHEMICAL ETCHING: These are destructive processes, which limits their use. They involve the painting of an etching solution over the area in question. The chemical eats the disordered metal faster than the surrounding metal, and thus brings the numbers into view. Adding an electric current (electrochemical etching) hastens the process. Either of these must be done carefully, since over-etching will destroy the evidence forever.

ULTRASONIC CAVITATION: This technique is similar to chemical etching and is also a destructive process. The gun is placed in a special ultrasonic bath and exposed to very high-frequency vibrations. This causes cavitation, a process in which tiny bubbles form along the surface of the metal. With continued exposure, the cavitation begins to eat away the metal. The process is fastest in the areas of disorder and, as with chemical etching, the serial number might be revealed.


Posted by on May 12, 2015 in Uncategorized


Human Head and Leg Found Inside Tiger Shark


Back in November, 2014, fishermen in the Philippines hooked a large tiger shark. Not all that uncommon. But what they found inside was very unusual. A human head and leg. Some believe the victim had been a passenger on the MV Maharlika 2 ferry that sank near Leyte a few weeks earlier on September 13th.

It was a tiger shark that took the arm of surfer Bethany Hamilton several years ago. But the attack didn’t run this brave young woman out of the water though as she continues to be an active, competitive surfer.


This incident reminded me of the famous and fascinating 1935 Shark Arm Case in Australia. One that involved, forgery, blackmail, and murder and one where the shark was another innocent victim. The case was convoluted and confusing and raised many questions—-not the least of which was ”what constitutes a body?” Is an arm enough to say that a person was indeed dead?

I used this case as an example of corpse identification in my book Howdunnit: Forensics

Howdunit 400X533

From Howdunnit: Forensics:


In April 1935, two fishermen caught a large tiger shark off the coast of Sydney, Australia, and donated the creature to a local aquarium. A few days later the shark regurgitated a well-preserved, muscular, Caucasian human arm. The shark was sacrificed and an autopsy was performed, but no more human remains were found.

The arm appeared to have been removed by a knife rather than by the shark’s teeth. Further, the knife wounds appeared to have occurred postmortem. The arm bore a tattoo of two boxers squaring off. Through meticulous work, fingerprints were obtained, and they indicated that the victim was James Smith, an ex-boxer with a criminal past. His wife identified the tattoo.


Further investigation led the police to Patrick Brady, a known forger and drug-trafficker, who had gone on a fishing trip with the victim just before his disappearance. Police theorized that Brady killed Smith, hacked him to pieces, and stuffed his remains into a trunk that was missing from the fishing shack the two men had shared. Smith’s arm must have slipped free in the water and been swallowed by the shark. Under questioning, Brady implicated another man named Reginald Holmes, who was himself shot to death the day before the inquest into Smith’s death was to begin. Brady’s attorneys obtained an injunction from the court, halting the inquest on the grounds that an arm was not sufficient evidence to bring murder charges. The police charged Brady with murder anyway, but a jury, likely influenced by the court ruling, acquitted him.



Posted by on January 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,623 other followers

%d bloggers like this: